"We accept the bad terms of these contracts, and we don't act like a unified sector," said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York. "All of us need to say, no, we're not going to accept this contract because we know we're going to fail." Instead, she said, if one group declines there are plenty of others lining up to accept the bad terms.
Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizens Budget Commission, stressed that the nonprofit sector needs to do a better job of marketing itself to show how it helps solve societal problems. "'Nonprofit' is just a tax status," she said. "It doesn't describe what you do to help people get out of need." It doesn't help that media outlets rarely cover the sector and focus mainly on scandals when they do, many said.
"If Hurricane Sandy proved one thing, it's that those neighborhoods with experienced and stable nonprofit organizations who knew their communities well were the neighborhoods whose residents did better and whose recovery happened faster," said Wackstein. "The essential nature of nonprofits as the true 'first responders' has never been clearer than it was during and after Sandy." That's the story people need to hear so they understand that nonprofits help everyone, not only the most needy, the panelists said.
Many participants stressed that nonprofits need to unify and build coalitions for collective political action and advocacy - including the possibility of forming a PAC. With mayoral and City Council elections coming up, nonprofits must get on the radar of candidates and new leaders to educate them about the sector's economic impact and its value for constituents in such areas as workforce development and housing assistance.In his keynote address, Egger said that not one of the candidates in the 2012 presidential election talked about the role of nonprofits in the nation's economic recovery: "Our candidates should be fighting for your vote. They need to prove they understand that for-profits and nonprofits are equally essential to any economic recovery plan. If they don't, I wouldn't vote for them to be dog-catcher." He called on the nonprofit sector to harness its tremendous collective power and encourage its many thousands of employees to use social media to deliver this call to action to candidates and elected officials.